Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 18, 2016 - 8:30 am

Bryan Pearson’s Nunavut friends say farewell

“He was your friend. He was my friend.”

JIM BELL
Above the coffin of the late Bryan Pearson, a video tribute to Iqaluit's founding mayor is displayed on a screen at a memorial service held Oct. 17 at the Iqaluit cadet hall attended by hundreds of Iqaluit residents.
Above the coffin of the late Bryan Pearson, a video tribute to Iqaluit's founding mayor is displayed on a screen at a memorial service held Oct. 17 at the Iqaluit cadet hall attended by hundreds of Iqaluit residents.
The late Bryan Pearson's brother, Robert Pearson, sits between Martha Tikivik and the Very Rev. Jonas Allooloo, while elder Inuapik Sageatok looks one, at a memorial service for Pearson held Oct. 17 in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
The late Bryan Pearson's brother, Robert Pearson, sits between Martha Tikivik and the Very Rev. Jonas Allooloo, while elder Inuapik Sageatok looks one, at a memorial service for Pearson held Oct. 17 in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
The late Bryan Pearson's old friend, Ed Picco, gives a eulogy at a memorial service for Pearson held Oct. 17 in Iqaluit. In the bottom right corner, Pearson's dog Kamik stands quietly near his late master's coffin. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
The late Bryan Pearson's old friend, Ed Picco, gives a eulogy at a memorial service for Pearson held Oct. 17 in Iqaluit. In the bottom right corner, Pearson's dog Kamik stands quietly near his late master's coffin. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

With family members in Australia and the United Kingdom who viewed the event on Skype, the people of Iqaluit gathered inside the Iqaluit Cadet Hall to bid farewell to a friend who some had known for 60 years: Bryan Robin Pearson.

“He was your friend. He was my friend,” Martha Tikivik said in a eulogy. Tikivik’s late husband Joe was one of Pearson’s business partners in the early 1960s.

“When he would join us and visit with us, I would speak my language and he would speak English, but he was our friend,” Tikivik said.

Robert Pearson held a leash attached to Bryan’s little dog Kamik, who lay at Robert’s feet throughout the ceremony.

Pearson, 82, who suffered terminal cancer of the liver, died Oct. 12 at home in Iqaluit.

Over his 60-year life in Iqaluit, Pearson started many businesses, including the Astro Theatre and the Arctic Ventures store, and helped create the community’s first municipal council, for which he served as founding mayor.

Prior to Pearson’s death, tributes to him poured in from across the country.

“Sophie and I join your friends and family to voice our sincere support during this most difficult time. Your bravery in facing cancer is simply incredible,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Aug. 24 in a letter.

Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, also sent a letter to Pearson, praising him for his work as a member of the legislative assembly of the Northwest Territories and Iqaluit’s first mayor.

“You have helped shape the eastern Arctic, Nunavut and Canada, for which we should all be grateful,” Bennett said.

Ed Picco, a former MLA who has represented Iqaluit in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut legislatures, shared many fond memories at the Oct. 17 service.

“Bryan is one of those people you meet just once in our life,” Picco said in a lengthy eulogy.

Picco joked about Pearson’s abrasive and sometimes vindictive manner, amusing his audience with a string of anecdotes.

He told a story about how, while campaigning for the Progressive Conservative party in the 1988 federal election, Pearson stayed at Picco’s house in Hall Beach.

But he had to share a room—with Liberal candidate Jack Anawak.

“He never spoke to me for nine months,” Picco said.

But at the same time, Pearson displayed warmth, generosity and a willingness to perform acts of charity that he usually kept secret.

One of the those charitable acts, which Pearson didn’t want anyone to know about, was to buy and pack up boxes of food hampers and gifts for needy families.

“Bryan had a heart of gold. He could be the most kind and considerate person,” Picco said.

Picco also said Pearson was “a complex man,” with many dimensions to his personality.

“Bryan Pearson was many different things to many different people,” Picco said.

Pearson’s family abroad also sent written messages: “I will miss you so much. Life will never be the same without you,” his sister Valerie said.

Iqaluit residents at the memorial service also viewed a reminder of Pearson’s long history in Iqaluit: a video tribute prepared by filmmaker Ole Gjerstad of Piksuk Media, the company that bought Pearson’s Astro Theatre in 2012.

Dave Wilman, a veteran teacher and education administrator who has lived in Iqaluit for decades, described how, shortly after he arrived in Iqaluit, he first met Pearson.

Wilman, poorly dressed for the weather, had been trying to walk home against a cold wind when Pearson pulled up beside him in a vehicle.

“A little guy leaned out the window and said, get in, you’re too cold,” Wilman said.

Pearson drove him home, likely saving Wilman from suffering a bad case of frostbite.

Elder Inuapik Sageatok said in a short eulogy that she is grateful to have had Pearson as a friend.

“Bryan, if you can hear me, thank you,” she said.

 

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